Well not exactly like Tivo, but close enough. I had gotten tired of trying to tape shows or download them after they had showed and I wanted a better way to do things. Being the practical person I am (it also helps that I’m cheap) I decided to turn my computer into a High Definition Personal Video Recorder (HDPVR). I had been watching shows on my computer for a while and thought why not make the process easier and get better quality at the same time. Tivo would be nice but I’d rather not have to pay a monthly fee to get full functionality and I’m looking towards the future and an HD tv.

I decided on pulling down over the air (OTA) high definition because I don’t want to pay for TV and 90% of the shows I care to watch are broadcast for free. Next I bought a HD tuner card, VBOX DTA-150 ATSC HDTV receiver, and ran coax from our rooftop antenna to my room. The funny thing is you don’t need a special antenna to get HD signals but they’d probably try to sell you an “HDTV” antenna at one of the big box stores. I hooked up the 20-30 year old antenna on our roof and it works great.

Next I had to decide what software to run to manage and schedule all of my recordings and playback them back. I started off with GBPVR, open source, and it worked ok but I just wasn’t very satisfied and had to fuss with it. I looked at the commercial offerings, I didn’t want Microsoft Media Center so I tried the trial of BeyondTV. Wow, what a difference and the nicest thing about it is that it works great with minimal configuration. Trial was only for 21 days and it was reasonably priced, but they were throwing in a decent Firefly RF remote for free for a limited time so I bit and ordered it.

In this process I also found out that an hour of uncompressed HD video can take up about 6-8 GB on the hard drive so I had to order a new 250 GB Western Digital SATA drive to expand my 160 GB storage capacity to about 400 GB.

So I pretty much have all the functionality of Tivo for a fraction of the price, considering the new HD Tivo they just released is well over $600, plus the monthly $13.

2 Replies to “DIY HD Tivo”

  1. Talk about a cheap HD solution!

    I’m starting to consider a media box similar to what Angelo used to use which can playback HD files. If I do I’ll probably get this card too so I can record stuff upstairs. Only thing I don’t like about my sony box is the single tuner. If two things are on at once I’m screwed. Runner-up shows like smallville and one tree hill are reduced to divx downloads with crappy quality.

    Anyways, good show!

  2. Yes all you need is a decent UHF antenna to pull in OTA-HD (HDTV antennas are a marketing gimmick just like MonsterCable, for the love of god buy your cables from

    Yes, BeyondTV is the best (unless you run linux and can use mythTV which are both great choices for a hassle free dedicated PVR) As I get older, I realize some good things are worth paying for/supporting the developers… Yes uncompressed OTA-HD is huge (record to DIVX or WMV it will look just as good, especially if you don’t have a TV).

    I originally considered tossing a tuner (or two) into my HTPC but since I already have a 3 tuner satellite DVR I’m good for recording / not missing shows. Also, I’m not much into archiving most shows I watch and those shows I do want to keep are usually released in mpeg4 and are easy enough to acquire.

    Also, Nathan you’ll find that there are some great mpeg4/xvid:ac3 TV rips (usually the ones that are encoded to above DVD resolution and look almost as sharp as OTA-uncompressed, but at a fraction of the size).

    As a former Tivo lover (still has the most intuitive UI and has forced all others to innovate/imitate) it has fallen behind the times in the area of HD. It’s far too expensive (in both service and hardware) and then you’re married to either OTA or Cablecard for HD (no more analog/line in)… too little too late.

    Good start on a HTPC you’ll be super happy the day you hook that up to your own living room TV. That’s when you’ll sit in your chair, hold the keyboard with both hands and pretend your the kid in flight of the navigator!

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